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Pykrete: The most ignored invention

Posted on: April 16, 2009

Those of you who want to see the video about the hardest cardboard click here
Set in 1942

Just as the name sounds alien, so is the object being talked about. One of the most ignored inventions ever, is how Pykrete should be referred as.

Pykrete is a tough material processed at the time of freezing of water. It’s a super ice, fortified by mixing of wood pulp. Quite strangely, an ice cube reinforced with around 15% of wood pulp is strengthened to a point where a bullet’s penetration distance is halved in comparison to normal ice. The bullet will travel almost equally as it will in a brickwork! Awesome!

pykePykryte christening is a tribute to its inventor ‘Geoffrey Pyke’. A man with a distinguished intelligence and creativity, he was aptly recognized as ‘one of the most original if unrecognized figures of the present century’. During his year in Germany as a foreign correspondent, he gallantly managed an escape from the nefarious concentration camp. Finally when back in England, he met Mount Batten and suggested Pykrete carriers for airplanes. The main strategic advantage could have been the cost and the resistance quality of the super ice. Especially in cold seas and oceans, even in cases of torpedoes and bombings, the fragments would have still floated like fragmented raw material ready to be assembled back. As per a study, the super ice, Pykrete would have melted completely in one year or so.

hms-habbakuk1So there it was, on Lord Louis Mountbatten’s recommendation and Churchill’s approval, a secret team of British commanders headed by Pyke started rolling in a sub urban refrigerated meat shop. Their plan was to make a bigger ship than the erstwhile suggested Habbakuk, which was being conceived to carry humongous ‘Spitfires’, Bombers and other big carriers. Pyke’s H.M.S Habbakuk, as he called it, was extremely bigger and powerful than Habbakuk and could carry a staggering 200 Spitfires, a capacity which would make a strategic advantage.

Many ideas and applications were thought of including floating islands thick enough to rebound torpedoes, bombs, bullets. The only requirement was an onboard refrigeration system powered to keep the Pykrete afloat. Worst comes to worst and the refrigeration going kaput, the unit would still have been useful for a good year or so!


Finally the hard work, grilling and the myriad arguments paved the way to the prototype Boathouse, a Pykrete boat that was camouflaged as a boathouse. The hull was as strong as predicted by Pyke and it didn’t break when Mount Batten shot at it. The experiment was a success and a convincing one. The problem brewed when an agreement was reached between America and England to make the largest ship. Pyke went missing from the discussions as he didn’t trust America’s intentions. The plan also subsided as the carriers range increased dramatically and America developed the bomb, which Hiroshima and Nagasaki bore later in the war.

The need for such floating islands or ice boats was minimized by the increase in the range of the contemporary warfare.

But the idea was a marvel in itself, and Pykrete can still find many applications if thought about.


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